We cannot over-emphasize the importance of pruning!
- Prune your trees to promote bushy, dense foliage. Side branches and more leaves will grow on off the main branches and stem.
- Branches will become thicker and will not break easily if your animals graze directly off the trees.
- Prune your trees to maintain optimal grazing height = 1m to 1.5m tall trees with loads of nutrient-dense leaves.
- Animals will not be able to eat every leaf off a pruned tree. Densely leafed trees will always have central leaves as their “solar panels” to provide food for the tree even after they have been grazed. This will prevent grazed trees going into ‘shock’ and they will recover quicker.
- Prune your young trees, even while in their potting bags to promote side buds. Simply nip off the top growing tips of your 30cm sapling. You do not want to grow a thin, tall, spindly tree. You want to encourage bushy growth from the start.
- Prune with sharp, clean shearers. Cut your branches off with clean, slightly angled slice.
- Of course you must use your clippings! Feed to your animals chipped, or on whole branches or simply slide your fingers down tougher branches, removing the leaves into feed troughs. These clippings will also make excellent compost or mulch as they are packed with nitrogen!
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These weaned Angus bull calves have been in a hectare of lucerne trees feeding and growing strong. Our short, bushy, pruned lucerne trees provide excellent food!
These Angus bulls have been rounded off and are in excellent condition feeding off our lucerne trees.
Recently Myles sold several young Angus bulls at a livestock auction and his bulls fetched excellent prices.
Proof that lucerne trees provide nutritious food year-round!
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Fresh Green Chicken Food
Chickens love eating fresh lucerne tree leaves! With 14% protein levels, lucerne tree cuttings provide outstanding food for ‘free’!
I simply prune a few branches off the trees that form an effective wind break around my chicken yard, and the chickens devour every. single. leaf! (You’ll notice the bare branches from the previous day.)
A simple daily routine with wonderful results – healthy chickens, bright orange-yellow egg yolks and easy homesteading!
Grazing Directly Off Lucerne Trees
2-year Angus bull browsing directly off the lucerne trees.
Our pruned lucerne trees are sturdy and bushy – perfect for cattle to feed directly off the tree.
We have pruned our lucerne trees, chipping the cut branches and establishing good, sturdy, bush-like trees. After more than 2 years, the grasses growing between the rows of trees are really prolific. The trees’ nitrogen-fixing roots fertilize the soils and promote good grass growth.
This is great grazing year-round!
Chipping Tons of Food
We have discovered an amazing method of Lucerne Tree food production ~
When we pruned our trees, we collected all our cuttings and fed our sheep and cattle these soft branches, but when we pushed the cuttings through a chipper, the animals absolutely LOVED it!
Advantages of chipping Lucerne Tree branches ~
- ALL the cuttings are used as food. Nothing is wasted!
- The soft lucerne tree branches are high in nutrient value and fiber.
- Chipped trees can be fed as green, wet fodder.
- Dried chipped lucerne trees can be stored in bags.
- Add salts and crushed mealies added to chipped fodder as an excellent, nutritious finishing food for lambs and calves.
- Pruning trees helps to correct the shape, strengthen the branches and stimulate new growth on trees.
- Pruned trees are kept at optimal grazing height.
- Sturdy pruned branches are resistant to grazing damage.
Estimates on food tonnage per tree ~
- You can chip your pruned branches within the first few months, and quadruple your feed in comparison to when animals graze directly off the trees.
- 4-year-old trees will give a minimum of 50 kg of wet chipped fodder per annum.
- One staff member can prune close to 450 kg of wet material per day.
- 1 hectare of 4-year-old trees with a minimum of 2000 trees (see planting calculations) can deliver in excess of 100 tonnes of wet material per annum if your trees are consistent in size.
- When you allow your animals to graze directly off the trees, you will average in a region of 30 tonnes of wet material per hectare/ per annum.
This is year-round, drought-resistant, lush, nutritious food which gets better and better every year!
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Benefits of pruning lucerne trees
Pruned 16-month-old trees on the left compared to un-pruned trees on the right
Every time you prune your trees, you increase your trees carrying capacity.
Lucerne trees must not be grazed within their first 2 years, because the animals tear the branches and stunt the growth of these young trees. The aim is to have a mature tree having a thick stem of about 280mm, but being no more than 1 meter in height. The result is thick 50-75mm branches carrying very dense foliage. These branches are never grazed or damaged while the foliage is eaten off them.
Pruned 16-month-old trees
Whenever you prune your trees, the roots prune themselves, fixing nitrogen in your soils.
Every pruning should give you up to 40kg of plant material off a 3-year-old tree. In the case where you have established 2000 trees in a hectare, this will amount to 80 tonnes of silage!
Pruning is the most beneficial practice for the lucerne tree and it is an essential component of lucerne tree management.
Do NOT neglect to prune your trees!
Dry Feed From Prunings
Nothing is wasted on these trees
Every branch pruned in the field to maintain the optimum tree height at 1.5m is carried into a storeroom to dry.
Even the small cuttings pruned from our trees in potting bags is collected for dry feed.
(We cut our small trees still in their bags to stimulate side branch growth to form a bushy tree, rather than a long, lanky tree.)
Within 3 days the branches have dried out and with a couple good knocks against the wall, every leaf falls down, leaving neat bare branches. (A nice rainy-day job!)
We mix our leaves with some crushed mealies, some molasses and a scoop of salt and store our finishing mix in bags. And every stock farmer knows the great benefit of a good finishing mix for their lambs!
So, keep your trees short, promote side growth and collect food for storage – a win! win! win! with lucerne trees!
10 month old Lucerne trees
These trees which were established in January are showing excellent growth at 10 months!
They have not yet been grazed, but have been pruned twice to maintain 1m height and encourage lateral growth. Pruning encourages the tree to bush and prevents the tree from growing too tall and spindly for your livestock to utilize.
Roots – your most important growth factor!
Many new lucerne tree farmers plant their seeds into shallow seed trays, but if you look at the following photos, you will realize that the roots are more aggressive in their growth than the leaves.
In fact, those green leaves and shoots you see sprouting out of the soil is an indication of the depth of soil needed for the roots.
This lucerne tree has an incredible tap root and side root structure. These seeds need deep 30cm trays or crates filled with coarse river sand.
Prune the growth tips of your small trees to encourage side branching when your tree reaches about 15cm. You’ll soon notice new buds develop all along the stem!
Remember that you do not add any fertilizer to your potting soil.
When you plant out your seedlings, never pull the tree up out of the soil. This strips and damages the roots, especially the fine root hairs. Most transplanted trees with this type of damage do not survive. Rather scoop deep under the little trees and lay the seedlings on their sides loosely, and gently separate each seedling. Using a nice deep stick or dibber, make a suitably wide deep hole in the potting bag soil and gently ease the roots straight down into the hole. Gently firm the soil around your seedling and water.
When you plant out your potted trees, try preserve most the soil around the roots and make a suitable deep hole in the ground. Fill the hole with water before placing your tree into the hole. Fill and gently firm the soil around the base.